Big Mamma chef Rocco Dimartino making pasta, as featured in our new book Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Mamma Knows Best: How to make great, fresh pasta

The Big Mamma chefs are pasta masters. Here’s how you can make ravioli, spaghetti and linguini just like them

Every now and then we have a bake off at Phaidon where we cook dishes from our many wonderful food and cookery books. At this week's bake off,'s favourite dish was an old Italian classic from one of our newest food books, Big Mamma Cucina Popolare (expertly made by our senior marketing manager, Immie!)


To eat at one of Big Mamma’s restaurants is to dine at a carefully conceived ideal of an Italian trattoria. This fun, hearty restaurant group, founded by two Italian-food-loving Frenchmen, has managed to conjure up the warmth and generosity of a traditional trattoria in a wide variety of European locations, partly because it insists on employing young, talented and enthusiastic Italian chefs - each of whom is very good at getting the important things right. Things like pizza, pesto and yes, pasta!

Take, for example, this no-fail guide to pasta making from Rocco Dimartino, chef at Mamma Primi in Paris, which is reproduced in Big Mamma Cucina Popolare.

“If you’re set on making fresh pasta, we recommend you get yourself a good-quality pasta machine. It will be a necessity,” Rocco advises. “If you insist on making pasta by hand, good luck! We’ve all tried it. You might feel proud of yourself to start with, but you’ll end up getting a machine. Before you do anything, you must decide what type of pasta you want to make. Ravioli, spaghetti, linguini – take your pick. The only difference will be any filling ingredients used and the shaping techniques.”


Big Mamma Cucina Popolare
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

To make pasta the Big Mamma way you’ll need 320 g/111/2 oz (22/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour; 280 g/10 oz (21/4 cups) of durum wheat flour; 14 egg yolks; and, if you want to make black pasta one teaspoon cocoa powder or squid ink.

"On a clean work surface, make a mound with the plain (all-purpose) and durum wheat flours and create a well in the centre,” advises our new book. “Put the egg yolks into the well and gradually mix the flour into the centre to combine with the egg yolks. Gradually add the flour from around the sides until all the flour is mixed and you have a smooth ball of dough.

“Using a pasta machine or rolling pin, roll out the pasta until 2 mm/ ₁/₁₆ inch thick. Using a knife or pasta cutting wheel, cut the pasta into the desired shape,” the directions go on. “To make a black pasta, like the one we use in our Black Tortelli pasta, add one teaspoon (unsweetened) cocoa powder or one teaspoon squid ink (remember this version is not vegetarian) to the flour at the same time as the egg yolks. You can make the pasta dough ahead of time and store it in the freezer, but remember to add four teaspoons of water.” 

For more culinary advice from Mamma, order a copy of Big Mamma Cucina Popolare here.